400: this is the average number of incubators in France, which support startups and companies in their development. Between 2009 and 2018, their number increased by 243%.
The boom is still going strong, with one priority in mind for these institutions: to provide the best possible support for French entrepreneurs' projects.
To meet this challenge, incubators & accelerators can rely on a key lever: communities. Creating, leading and engaging communities of incubators is a goldmine of opportunities for startups and the organizations that support them.
To better understand the impact of communities and Community-Led Growth in this ecosystem, MeltingSpot handed its microphone to Camille Buss, ex-Startup Manager at Village by CA and ex-leader of the accelerator Le Media Lab (TF1 group). Here's a little guide 👇
Incubators: a booming market
France has one of the most developed incubator markets worldwide. The biggest incubator in the world, Station F, is located right in the middle of Paris' 13th arrondissement. This kind of institution is expanding steadily throughout France. The goal? To support the emergence of new startups, to maximize their chances of success.
➡️ According to a study by the Boston Consulting Group, an uncoached startup has a failure rate of about 40% (vs. 20% for a coached startup). To minimize the chances of failure, incubators provide support by analyzing ideas and making various resources available... But that's not all!
Today, the quality of incubator support depends on their ability to deliver (or not) a community experience. Incubated startups are no longer just looking for financial resources, tangible skills or a physical location to develop. Now, access to sharing, mutual aid, and common wisdom, collective intelligence is what they anticipate... And belonging to a tight-knit group, like a community of peers.
"In an incubator or accelerator, the community is a huge asset for the startup being supported, but also for the structure that supports it. The startup can move much faster, and meet entrepreneurs who have the same issues, which saves measurable time in project development. For the support structure, the community feedback improves the recruitment of new startups." - Camille Buss, former Startup Manager (Le Village by CA and TF1's Media Lab)
What is Community-Led Growth?
Community-Led Growth is a growth strategy that relies on the power of one or more communities. Behind this concept hides an observation: creating, animating and engaging a community allows to accelerate growth. And the good news is that this strategy is an engine for all types of businesses... Incubators included.
Indeed, Community-Led Growth can concern (among others):
- B2C brands, who wish to animate a customer community. For example, the operator Sosh gathers a community of more than 700,000 customers on its platform.
- B2B companies, which develop a community of prospects. This is the case of Spendesk, with its CFO Connect community, which gathers more than 6,000 financial decision-makers. Within the community, the closing rate of prospects is 3 times higher and the number of contracts signed is 35% higher (vs. other channels)!
Investment funds (or VCs), which develop a community of company founders. This is the case of Kima Ventures, which brings together about 1,000 startups from their investment portfolio in a B2B community.
Whether they are brands, investment funds or incubators, all these companies have one thing in common: the possibility to accelerate their growth, thanks to the creation of one or several communities.
Incubators & accelerators: 5 reasons to create a community
1- Simplify mutual aid and sharing
Every day, dozens (or even hundreds) of startups meet in incubators. These incubator locations are ideal for gatherings and mutual aid. But to facilitate connections between startups, the creation of a community is essential!
💡 MeltingSpot's tip: use an online community platform (to simplify asynchronous exchanges), while holding face-to-face events (to facilitate real meetings).
"For community animation (especially as a Startup Manager), the use of tools is extremely important. Especially via a dynamic, active space, where people connect. This is essential to extend the life of information so that it is intercepted and not lost" - Camille Buss, ex-Startup Manager (Le Village by CA and TF1's Media Lab)
2- Facilitate the onboarding of new startups
Joining an incubator can be a confusing experience. New place, new project, new encounters... To facilitate the reception of startups, the community experience is once again an excellent initiative.
💡MeltingSpot's tip: On your community tool, welcome each new startup, and invite them to introduce themselves. Organize a monthly welcome event (face-to-face or virtual), to facilitate the integration of newcomers. Finally, to facilitate the onboarding of incubates, use your community platform (such as MeltingSpot) to share all types of documents, resources or useful content!
"Events are essential to facilitate the onboarding of newcomers. At Le Village by CA, there were many such events: breakfasts on each floor of the incubator, afterworks, business lunches between founders in the same sector, themed workshops..." - Camille Buss, former Startup Manager (Le Village by CA and TF1's Media Lab)
3- Generate business opportunities between startups
An incubator is a place of life, projects, innovation and of synergies. Indeed, many startups can go from being "fellow incubates" to "partners". And to generate partnerships or business opportunities, the facilitating element is none other than community.
💡MeltingSpot's tip: within your startup community, create discussion groups by industry or company typologies. You will facilitate the birth of new fruitful collaborations.
"Creating sub-communities enhances the community experience. For example, at Village by CA, we had 4 categories of sub-communities: startups from the same selection committee, neighbouring startups on the same floor, "clubs" of startups from the same sector and the alumni sub-community, having left the nest." - Camille Buss, former Startup Manager (Le Village by CA and TF1's Media Lab)
4- Develop a competitive advantage
The community is a golden differentiator for any incubator or accelerator. Perfect for setting yourself apart, attracting new startups and offering them an unforgettable experience!
💡MeltingSpot's tip: Community-Building relies heavily on word-of-mouth. To set yourself apart from other incubator communities, consider turning the most engaged members into Ambassadors. The community will then benefit from their natural communication.
"To make a difference, here's a good practice: foster co-construction, and constantly ask what startups want, to create an experience that meets their needs." - Camille Buss, former Startup Manager (Le Village by CA and TF1's Media Lab)
5- Accelerating growth
Through Community-Led Growth, incubators generate more virtuous growth. The members, who guide and take part in the incubator's development, are the ones responsible for this progress. Community-Led Growth drives acquisition, retention, and co-building of new projects, but also enhances awareness: a perfect blend, to boost growth.
💡MeltingSpot's tip: think about calculating the ROI (return on investment) of your Community-Led Growth strategy to monitor the impact of your community on your growth.
"The primary value of coaching structures lies in its community of entrepreneurs. And as far as startups are concerned, a company is twice as likely to succeed when it is accompanied by the right structure. A real virtuous circle!" - Camille Buss, former Startup Manager (Le Village by CA and TF1's Media Lab)
Developing a community of incubates: 3 last tips from Camille Buss
- Make sure you have time: Community-Building is a full-time job. Creating, animating and engaging a community cannot be improvised and requires long-term efforts!
- Focus on sub-communities: segmentation helps to make the community experience more dynamic. Within the same community, consider creating sub-groups: startups from the same sector, startups from the same floor, founders' group, marketing or sales team group, alumni sub-community...
- From virtual to real... Find the right balance to federate: a community platform, a tool like Slack, a WhatsApp group, or a newsletter are 2.0 assets to animate a community. But don't underestimate the importance of real meetings! In a post-covid context, startups need stimulating events, both to take care of their mental health and to generate business opportunities.
Incubators & accelerators ... Now you know what you have to do. Create, animate and engage your community! 👇